What is the most popular search term for a car dealership? Their name of course! And what happens 100% of the time a person performs a Google Search for a dealership name? The dealership’s Google My Business (GMB) listing displays front and center, along with the dealership’s online reputation star-rating. Their GMB listing will also pull up when a consumer searches for a vehicle make followed by a geographic location, for instance “Ford dealer near me,” or “Jeep dealer in Chicago.” You get the idea, the dealership’s Google My Business listing has become their white or yellow pages on the Internet, and a dealership’s most important secondary website.
Few would discount the importance of online reviews. For any of us who are buying products online, we know our confidence level is higher when we’re buying from a highly-rated buyer. Since most car shopping journeys start online using Google Search, we know that most consumers are seeing dealer reviews on Google. We know there are many other automotive review sites on the web, but for the purposes of this article, our goal is to help dealers win with Google reviews.
If a dealership truly wants to win with online reputation, the best advice is to contract with one of the top providers such as Podium or Reputation.com. These companies will contact variable and fixed operations customers in an effort to drive more reviews across Google and other review sites. However, these reputation companies will only be able to influence a certain percentage of buyers to leave a review, so dealers shouldn’t stop there. To further this effort, dealers should also take it upon themselves to drive additional reviews through one-on-one engagement.
What does that mean? The idea is for a car salesperson or service writer who has just successfully helped a customer purchase a vehicle or complete a repair to drive a review from a one-on-one request while the customer is still at the dealership. Best practice would be to target the customers who are very happy with their purchase process, and are in the final stages before leaving the dealership. The salesperson or service writer simply offers to text a GMB short-code that will allow the customer to leave a Google review. The short-code is a new feature from Google that creates a direct link to a business’s GMB page. This one-on-one engagement and review request are far more likely to deliver an online review, and that review is much more likely to be a positive one.
I’ve seen this approach work incredibly well in dealerships, especially when salespeople are incentivized (i.e. pay plans) to drive online reviews that mention the salespersons’ name. Dealers are driving about 10-15 new reviews per week, with most of them being 5.0 stars. The key is targeting your best customers and messaging them by text (instead of email).
Winning with Google reviews also includes responding to negative reviews, and some positive reviews. Responding to negative reviews is not so much to directly address the reviewer, it is more intended for the other people who will read the response. Responses to negative reviews should be brief, with a goal to take the complaint off-line. Dealers do not want to encourage an online debate, which will only make the situation worse. Your reputation management provider may perform some of this for the dealership, but I would encourage the dealer to work to share or take over that engagement for two reasons. First, this should be a personal outreach from the dealership, and keep them close to issues and reputation. The other reason is that reviews, responses to reviews, can also directly feed Google’s knowledge graph. It is an opportunity for the dealership to include some relevant keywords, but without going overboard with word stuffing.
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